By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
Eastern High School’s football field may have held the 50th anniversary of D.C.’s Turkey Bowl, but it was really contested at another place. Somewhere at the intersection of Destiny Boulevard and Dynasty Place, perhaps the next era of Crimson Tide dominance returns, after a victory in the 2019 District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA) Championship game.
Two years after being hired as head coach Maurice Vaughn led Dunbar to their first appearance in the Turkey Bowl since 2012 and beat the defending champions from H.D. Woodson 21-12. It was the program’s 14th appearance in the annual holiday matchup since 1998, while the Warriors have made it their tradition playing in their sixth consecutive championship game. For a coach who graduated from the school it was extra special to restore the legacy by bringing the 11th championship back to their campus.
“I just kept preaching to the guys that they just need to keep trusting the process,” Vaughn said in the jubilant aftermath. “This was always a three-year process in my mind, and now look in year three here we are.”
Dunbar played with a different mission this season. The team was motivated by the loss of their captain, Akhii Jackson-Scruggs, who was murdered in July. Jackson-Scruggs’ murder remains one of the 79 unsolved homicides in the District this year and the team rallied behind the tragedy all season. They honored his memory throughout the year by bringing his jersey to midfield with them before every game along with the rest of the Crimson Tide’s captains who participated in the coin toss.
The Crimson Tide grinded through their final two games by relying on the defense to pull them through. After an 8-0 win in the DCIAA semifinals over Theodore Roosevelt, Dunbar’s defense set the tone early in preparation for a dominant performance with a championship hanging in the balance.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Crimson Tide linebacker Jesse Jackson forced a fumble that was returned by Daequan Harvin who raced it 39 yards for a touchdown. At that moment Dunbar seized the day and proceeded to bury Woodson with their suffocating defense.
Dunbar capitalized on the opportunities the defense gave by forcing Woodson into uncharacteristic mistakes that derailed their chances. Once they had the lead, the prolific offense that defined their season began eating big chunks of yardage to open the fourth quarter with a three-touchdown advantage. The Crimson Tide took advantage of the short field opportunities by converting them into scores that proved insurmountable heading into the fourth quarter.
Sophomore linebacker Marquez Minor established himself as one of the area’s top prospects by earning the Most Valuable Player award with eight tackles and broke up a pass to thwart a Woodson drive.
Running back DaCian Jenkins and the Crimson Tide offense cashed in defense’s effort by scoring on a short touchdown run, but after another missed two-point conversion attempt the lead was only 12-0 at halftime.
Late in the third quarter quarterback Daequan Harvin scored on a rushing TD and after a field goal Dunbar led 21-0 heading into the fourth quarter and they wouldn’t look back. Woodson scored twice in the final period and still came up short.
With their victory, Dunbar (10-2) will face the winner of the Friendship Collegiate Archbishop Carroll winner for the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) state championship.